Food for Thought

by Sandy Loree

Published in the March 2000 Issue of Anvil Magazine

Sole support techniques to treat laminitis have not met with much favor within the equine industry in the past. During this last decade, the adaptation of products and technology from other unrelated industries has made sole loading practical with a minimum of complications. A few individuals have recently demonstrated tremendous success treating laminitis using sole support. Several publications, presentations and demonstrations have been done in the last four years sharing those experiences and explaining successful techniques to the people in the equine industry.

I would have expected farriers, veterinarian practitioners and researchers to pick up on this and at least experiment themselves. Yet new publications offered by long-time reputable individuals make little reference to sole loading as a treatment. Also, those publications give no consideration to the possibility that most laminitis complications are subsequent to the mechanical injury of the laminae and that the key to treating laminitis is to remove the direct forces which cause that injury.

The equine industry has long dreamed of a solution for laminitis. Regrettably, I personally think we have collectively and subconsciously given up hope. The suggestion that something as simple as unloading the wall may be the key to the problem is easily taken as a fantasy. Fantasy or reality, the potential benefits warrant investigation.

My message to farriers, veterinarians, and laminitis researchers is to please have a look. Think about it. Ask questions. Give it a try. Time is wasting. Horses are suffering needlessly.

Let go of the notion that laminitis is a complicated mystical, incurable disease. Laminitis is simply a condition relative to a mechanical injury and if you unload it , it will heal. I recommend that we stop making reference to "coffin bone rotation," and instead think in terms of hoof wall displacement. It is then easier to visualize the direct forces responsible for displacing the hoof wall and to understand that the tension of the flexor tendon is not a factor. Be aware of the two weight-bearing systems within the hoof and manage them separately. Look for ways to drain the serum fluids out of the injured area.

As confidence builds using sole support, I predict we will become less dependent on radiographs for diagnosis for laminitis because, regardless of the degree of separation observed, the prescribed treatment will be to unload the wall. I am of the opinion that, once the anatomy and function of the two weight-bearing systems is understood, the results of unloading the wall are already predictable, and that research would be a waste of time. I would like to see research continued to help us understand the chemical factors that are known to trigger laminitis, but observe the effect on the whole body rather than just specifically the laminae. I would also like to see research on mechanical and systemic methods to control and eliminate the inflammation and serum fluids from within the hoof capsule.

Note: See Sandy Loree's article "Laminitis Repaired" in this issue.

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